Saturday, May 8, 2010

Congress hears typical pleas for more arts funding

One thing that arty types do better, and more often, than just about anything else is ask for more money from government. The latest prominent person of this kind is Kyle McLachlan, who says that greater funding of the arts is a matter of great urgency.

His own high self regard is revealed by the fact that he said he wouldn't have got a start in his career if it were not for publicly funded theatres employing him in their productions. The inference seems to be that the world would be poorer without his work in Desperate Housewives and the like.

I don't want to sound like a philistine, but I do think that when money is tight there are more deserving groups to give it to than the arts community.

One thing artists often do to justify their requests is to say that more arts funding is good for business. (But that begs the question: If they are so good at creating business then why are they asking for funding in the first place?) Of course, arts campaigners are using that argument in this call on Congress.

But surely one of the most bizarre arguments in this campaign doesn't come from an artist, but from a retired soldier called Nolan Bivens, who says that arts education will help the war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Banksy cynically pays off Exit Through the Gift Shop

A lot of anti-establishment types think that Brit grafitti artist Banksy is an idealistic hero, bravely covering buildings with his subversive art. But he's as calculating and cynical as anyone in the corporate world, if this story is anything to go by.

See, Banksy made a film with the title Exit Through the Gift Shop, which also just happens to be the name of a band. Clearly, this was a potential cause of embarrassment (not to mention a financial risk) so he managed to get them to change their name by giving them one of his alleged masterpieces worth a couple of hundred thousand pounds.

While many may think this shows how generous he is, I'd say the opposite. His actions reflected very poorly on him - and not too well on the band, either.

Firstly, it's quite possible he lifted the name. (If he didn't, then why not just say it was a coincidence and leave it at that?) If he had any respect for his fellow (musical) artists he would have respected their original moniker. After all, a band's name is a very personal thing - not to mention a powerful branding tool. Think of The Rolling Stones, Australian Crawl, Cold Chisel and a squillion others. All unique, evocative and valuable (in more ways than one).

Then, to save his own reputation as an original artist, and presumably prevent any chance of litigation, he basically tried to buy them off. Sadly, they accepted and changed their name to "Brace Yourself". (Perhaps condemning them for this is setting too high a bar. They are just a garage band doing covers, after all. Still, that is how even some of the most successful ones start.)

Artists are supposed to value their own works and words like their own beloved offspring, aren't they? But this case makes them look like baby traffickers - particularly the buyer, Banksy.

The backdrop he gave the band as compensation features the Grim Reaper. This is kind of fitting, since his cynical actions reveal the death of his artistic integrity.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spencer Tunic's homage to LS Lowry in Manchester

Spencer Tunick is doing yet another one of his nude installations. This time it's in Manchester.

This particular work is meant to "reflect" the work of artist LS Lowry. That just confirms my belief that Tunick has no new ideas at all.